I’ve always been scared of pressure cookers. My mom has had one for years and raves about it. The idea of pressure and the horribly loud sound they make have always kept me far out of the kitchen when she’s using it. But, I moved to India. Here, daal and other beans are staples of the diet and they all come dried. Getting your hands on cooking fuel is no easy task and spending hours in a hot kitchen when temperatures are already in the 90s is not appealing. The solution: the pressure cooker. Quick and efficient, you can make a delicious daal in 15 minutes flat.
And so I reluctantly agreed to purchase a pressure cooker. After using it a few times with supervision and slowly learning not to jump every time it whistles, I decided to embark upon some pressure cooking on my own. I made daalma, also known as lentil soup. My vegetables, lentils, spices, and seasonings were in, I sealed up the cooker and lit the stove. After about 4-5 whistles, I figured my soup was done. That’s when it dawned on me. I had no idea how to open the pressure cooker. I’d never used it on my own before and had never taken the job of opening it upon myself. All I knew was that I should probably let out some pressure before opening it and that it would probably pop when I did open it.
I started by removing the little nob that jumps up when steam builds up inside. There was very loud hissing and a steady stream of daal broth going straight to the ceiling. I decided that covering the ceiling with broth was probably not the appropriate way to use the cooker and quickly replaced the nob. Then I let the cooker sit for a bit thinking it just needed to calm down a bit and then I could open it.
Being impatient, I only let it sit for about 5 minutes before deciding to try to open it again. It wasn’t easy. I had to put some serious muscle into getting the handle to turn. I was prepared for a bit of a pop when I finally got it open and was careful to stand back. I was not at all prepared for what happened next. When I finally got the lid turned to the open position, the entire thing exploded! The lid flew out of my hand and there was boiling hot daalma raining down on me. The pressure of the cooker was so strong that my entire kitchen, floor to ceiling, was covered in lentils, vegetables, and broth. Needless to say, I was shocked. It took me a minute to regain my composure and figure out if I was hurt. Luckily there were only some minor burns on my shoulders and back from flying potatoes. My wet hair had protected my head and somehow my face had managed to avoid any contact with hot soup.
After a few deep breaths and accepting the fact that dinner was ruined, I cleaned up my soupy kitchen. I got the floor, counters, and most of the walls clean. However, I must admit that there are still tomatoes and potatoes stuck to my kitchen ceiling. While the kitchen is a little worse off, there is no permanent damage to me or to it.
And yes, I did learn how to use the pressure cooker properly. That little nob gets gently lifted up with a spoon to let all the steam out without causing a fountain of broth. Once the steam is out, the lid opens easily and there are no explosions. I can happily report that I have successfully opened the pressure cooker on numerous occasions since that fateful day.